I always go left. Whenever I walk the Norris Reservation in the heart of Norwell Center, I reach the split in the trail just beyond the old mill dam, and I inevitably go left. Perhaps I have a thing about walking loops in clockwise fashion. So today I went right.
One of the greatest natural indicators of ambient temperature in suburbia is here at Norris, the rhododendron. When the temperature drops, the leaves of this woody shrub curl up to protect themselves from the cold. In my former existence as a landscaper, of so many years ago, I planted rhododendrons, I transplanted rhododendrons and I pruned rhododendrons. I know when they're happy and when they're not. These were not happy rhododendrons. It was profoundly cold.
A Cooper's hawk perched in a tree as I started on the trail, watching for small birds below. But at 12 degrees, there was little movement. I didn't see another living creature until I looped Gordon Pond and came across a swamp sparrow that was either so trained to be near humans or simply so hungry that it practically danced across my feet in search of food.
The trails here cross stonewalls. I could not help but think of boundary disputes of old, when crossing this wall might have brought the ire of a farmer down upon the head of the transgressor. Those farmers are probably rolling over in their graves today, as the bounds they worked so hard to establish have been erased for the sake of recreation.
Out on the North River a female common goldeneye joined a flock of common mergansers. As I stopped to give them a glance, I realized that I was not, in fact, as alone as I thought I was. I heard distant crunching. The snow today was like pavement, but pavement covered in a thin layer of sand. I knew right away it was human, as it was too consistent to be a deer, and too heavy to be anything else that lives in this part of the state. Snowshoers! Two of them, enjoying the day as I was.
A red-tailed hawk graced the famouns bend in the river below Rocky Reach. Across the river, I could see Tom's place, which I wrote about recently for South Shore Living magazine. Next door I could see Brad's, where I spent many a Thursday morning cutting the lawn as a kid. The North River is an amazingly interconnected place, or at least it is in my memory bank. And with 350 days to go in 2009, I've got plenty of time to explore it from all angles.
Time: 65 minutes.
New Species for 2009: Swamp sparrow (77).
Stranger hellos: 2 (29).
What else is happening: six hours of press releases, more writing.